Book maps

I think I found one of my characters in Tunis.

I think I found one of my characters in Tunis.

I love maps. Especially old ones with sea dragons, mermaids, and blank areas that have yet to be explored. Unfortunately, some of those blank areas are in the middle of my WIP. But thanks to my book map, at least I know what needs to be fleshed out.

I’m a dedicated outliner, and while I’m always able to put together a list of scenes, what I hadn’t tried to do in the past was more in-depth outlining with a spreadsheet.

I first read about this technique in Cheryl Klein’s book Second Sight, and she suggests a couple different ways you can go about it, focused either on plot or character. Since I’m more worried about plot with my revision, I took a more event-focused approach.

I set up my book map spreadsheet by creating several column headers, including:

  • Chapter.
  • What happens — a one-sentence description of the scene.
  • Date and time.
  • Setting
  • Action plot.
  • Emotional plot.
  • Characters.
  • Number of words.

I’ve seen some that just go chapter by chapter instead of breaking chapters into scenes, but part of my revision work is to figure out which scenes need to go in which chapters, so I’ve got columns for both.

The fun starts when you get all those cells filled in. Because then you can sort. You can sort by character, plot, highlight color, whatever. You’ve just built yourself a powerful tool for analyzing your revision.

Having said that, you can do this without spreadsheet software. Some folks just set up a table in Word or other word processing software. You can even do it the old-fashioned way, with a long roll of butcher paper and a few hundred sticky notes. Do whatever it takes to get the big picture.

Have you tried creating a book map with spreadsheet software? How did it go?


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1 Response to Book maps

  1. I like working with a book map. I use Excel. Mine maps are pretty basic, but now that I see some other categories, I may expand them. Thanks for mentioning the Klein book. I’ll have to check that out. Best of luck with your revisions.

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